What advice could you give based on your experience of South Africa on handling racism?


(RZIM Connect Member) #1

Hi Lara,gaan dit goed met jou? (How are you? For the non South Africans)

Lara, I am a fellow South African, and have never been outside of it’s borders. The Lord moved us to a city called Witbank just over 2 years ago, in Mpumalanga. It has been an amazing journey so far. We actively face racism almost every day. Some people have not let go of the past and we see people both white and black being treated quite poorly.
I recently had a conversation with a petrol attendant, who said he was chased away from a predominantly white church because he was black. We had a great discussion and could pray for him. We now have a good relationship. I stop there often and we always have a good chat.

What would be some advice you could give based on your experience of South Africa, on how to effectively break those molds and what have you found helpful in the process and what has not been helpful. We have a pretty good idea and we love all people and have seen God move in many ways. It would just be nice to get your perspective and advice as well, so that we don’t perhaps make the same mistakes as some have perhaps made in the past.

Thank you for your time.

(Lara Buchanan) #2

It’s great to meet a fellow South African here :)! I will resist the temptation to start discussing the best boerewors etc :slight_smile:

I really appreciate your question as it is something which I am constantly trying to think about for myself. The situation in South Africa is very complex and the current conversation about colonialism /racism / imperialism /restitution is multifaceted.

One thing that keeps striking me is the importance of not trivializing or trying to simplify the issues. There have been times where I have caught myself wishing there was just a quick answer, or a simply Christian response that would make things better. But, I’ve noticed this inclination in me in a number of different situations and it amounts to not wanting to really enter into people’s pain with them. This difficulty is compounded when I feel afraid that I am somehow linked to another person’s suffering. The fear of being hated, and in this context the fears of being found to be racist myself have often led me to want to back away from really hearing the pain and anger which people still want and need to express about the racism which oppressed so many for so long. But I am praying and trusting that God will strengthen me in this in the months and years to come.

I was so angry to hear the story which your friend shared with you. It is another reminder of the terrible stain on the white churches in South Africa. We have a lot of work to do in continuing to see God’s kingdom values (Ephesians 2:14!) lived out in our churches. But it actually feels like one of the keys to SA’s problems is tucked away in your story: intentionally building genuine cross-cultural friendships. I remember reading in one of Kenneth’s Bailey’s books about the huge significance of sharing meals in 1st Century Jewish culture. Jesus shocked everyone by crossing extraordinary boundaries in order to share meals with people who weren’t in his usual circle. I would love to get better at doing that too, regularly sharing meals with people from outside my usual circle.

Just a few thoughts, I hope that they are helpful. Thank you for asking this question. I’d love to hear more about how you and your wife have felt God has been leading you in these things.



(Kay Kalra) #3

(RZIM Connect Member) #4

@Lara_Buchanan thank you for your input.

I love sharing meals with people. it is such a great way to break the ice. We specifically felt God tell us to be more welcoming and have more people in our home more regularly. Hospitality is something I feel is a lost art. So that is one primary way we reach people from all walks, and is also how we do church together…in homes.

The second major thing is that we are working elders. I own a CrossFit box and I am active in coaching etc. So I am continually surrounded by all sorts of people from all different cultures. White, black, Indian, Muslim, Tamil, English, Afrikaans…you name it. So we have a very active mission field. At the box everyone is treated equally. I don’t allow any favoritism at all. We accept each member precisely for who they are. We apply that same principle to our personal life as well as the church. Everyone is unique, but we can’t show favoritism or preference because then we would be accused of prejudice.

The other thing we do is to just try and break the mold. So where white people treat black/ other colored people badly or just with condescending attitudes, we do the opposite. Intentionally going out of our way to be friendly and serve where we can, and treat them the way we would want to be treated.

So one brick at a time. God is so faithful and every breakthrough in someones life is just testimony of His love for people and the role we play.

Bless you and thank you for your input.